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FOR JONNY Wineberg, the “Board of Deputies’ structure is not fit for purpose” when it comes to the regions.
Over coffee in Brackman’s bakery in the north Manchester Jewish heartland, Mr Wineberg stresses that the opinion is a personal one and not made on behalf of the Jewish Representative Council of Greater Manchester, of which he is executive chair.
Mr Wineberg’s beef with the Board revolves around a lack of presence outside the capital. “You cannot have national initiatives just based in London,” he argues. “You have to make them truly national. If you want to engage with local authorities and politicians, you have to have someone in the area.”
As an example, he cites the impact made by Mancunian Marc Levy since being appointed the Jewish Leadership Council’s north-west regional affairs manager.
The JLC worked in partnership with the rep council to produce the manifesto for Greater Manchester Jewry, which was released to coincide with the recent Jewish hustings for Manchester mayoral election candidates.
“We want to influence what affects our community,” says Mr Wineberg, explaining that the manifesto will also be the basis for dealings with 10 local authorities in the region. “And every local authority is making different decisions on how to spend its money.”
Among other things, the manifesto calls for action against hate crime, recognition of the increased costs associated with Jewish social care and the need for affordable housing for large families in Jewish areas.
The latter point reflects the continued growth of the Charedi population, which accounts for a third of Manchester Jewry and getting on for half the Jews living in north Manchester.
“It is affecting how we plan,” Mr Wineberg admits. For example, although there are not currently huge numbers of elderly Charedim in Manchester, there will be a social care need longer term.
For now, “Charedi schools have got to meet the challenge of preparing people for the real world. It’s irresponsible if they don’t. They have to find the right balance between religious and secular education.”
The growth of the strictly Orthodox community has “slightly hidden” the drain of young people to London and abroad.
“We need to market ourselves better,” he says. But that requires greater resources.
Funding youth provision is another challenge. There has been no adequate replacement for the Jewish Youth Project, which closed eight years ago. Mr Wineberg fears there is no place for young people on the margins to turn to before their issues become critical. “It isn’t the sexiest thing to say you want to do community development and youth work. But if you don’t, I worry about the next generation of funders and lay leaders [coming through].” A major community centre would also help the cause.
As for the rep council, Mr Wineberg believes it has become more focused since a streamlining halved its leadership numbers.
The top positions have been split, with Sharon Bannister, its president, recognised as the public face of the organisation and Mr Wineberg engaged more behind the scenes. “My role is to ensure the working groups work.” The groups include publicity, fundraising, education and antisemitism.
“We’ve done done social media training, which we’ve never done before because there was no one to do it.” He wants to see better strategic planning adopted elsewhere in the community. “We still see people setting up new organisations to do things which are being done already.”
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Jonny Wineberg (front left) at a We Stand Together event at Heaton Park Synagogue